IMBA Success Stories
Jose Oriol Badia IMBA2004 is the Co-Founder and eCommerce Manager of Gift Campaign, a company focused on the online distribution of branded business gifts and promotional products. After its foundation in 2014 the company has grown to 20 employees and estimated sales of 2.5 million euros in 2018. Currently Gift Campaign operates in Spain and Italy, and is expanding to France and Portugal in 2019.
¿What is Gift Campaign and how it started?
I studied the IMBA program at IE. After ending my studies, I started to work as eCommerce Manager for an international promotional gift wholesaler, with its main focus on Europe but with customers all over the world.
Due to my previous background as IT Engineer I was responsible for all the projects related to Online Sales, CRM and third-party system integrations. In this position, I led international projects in Holland, Germany, Hong Kong and USA, and travelled through Europe for company presentations and customer trainings. On the customer side I also worked on system integrations for large merchandising projects with companies like P&G, Vodafone and Pfizer.
However, during the European crisis the overall spending on promotional products decreased and the company was forced to restructure and downsize several departments. Therefore, my eCommerce department was integrated in the IT department in Holland.
One thing that I realised during that time, was that promotional gift distributors in North Europe selling their products online, had an exponential growth compared to traditional distributors that were selling their products through printed catalogues.
Therefore, me and my business partner Diederik, decided to found Gift Campaign in order to become the leading ecommerce company in Europe for selling business gifts and promotional products online. With my IT knowledge and also experience in online marketing, as well as his knowledge about the promotional products market we believe to have a winning team.
¿Which challenges have you faced during this period?
With our experience it was relatively easy to set-up the online store, the internal ERP and to make the arrangements with the suppliers to sell their products online. However, initially the main problem that we had was to generated qualified leads and convert them to sales. Especially because in the beginning we didn’t have enough positioning in Google to be able to generate those leads automatically without the need of heavy investment. Therefore, we had to work out smart online marketing campaigns and optimise them on a daily basis to get the lowest CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) possible in order to be profitable from a very early stage.
However, once the business started to grow we could see that the main issue was to scale up the customer service team in order to support the growth in orders, phone calls, customer enquiries and invoices. Also, rotation was a problem as experienced employees who left had a heavy impact on the customer service teams’ capacity to attend our customers and their orders.
Finally, when going International you realise that besides the many languages, different pricing policies, transport costs, etc. there are also a lot of legal and fiscal aspects you need to solve in order to sell legally abroad. All these aspects also need to be implemented in your ERP and internal processes which requires a lot of time and attention. Something that you initially do not plan enough time for.
¿How do you compete with big international companies like Vistaprint that also offer promotional products to companies?
Vistaprint and other multinational companies that sell promotional products online, focus mainly on generating sales through heavy emailing campaigns, TV advertising and online advertisements. However, they have two main disadvantages: firstly, they have a low level of customer support, whereas customer service is extremely important when selling business gifts in B2B environments. Secondly, because of their scale and large budgets, they pay on average a very high CPA and therefore need very high margins to make profits and are thus less competitive.
In Gift Campaign we prioritise great customer support in order to have loyal customers that place repeat orders and a daily control of all the marketing campaigns in order to get the most out of them at the lowest price.
¿How the IMBA helped you to setup your company and run your business?
Before the IMBA at IE I had been working as a Software Engineer in Spain and UK. Technically I was able to manage IT projects and to do programming myself. However, I had no knowledge about the different areas of managing a business, like finance, marketing, operations or human resources. The IMBA helped me to understand all those areas and gave me the full picture of what managing a business is all about. Also, the business cases that we worked on were an excellent preparation for real live. I am very gratefully to the IE for letting me take part on the course, as all the knowledge that I got there has been extremely usual in my career and in developing my own business.
¿How is the promotional products and business gifts market changed in the last years?
The business gifts have been an important part of the marketing mix through the last decades, as they are a very cost-efficient way to promote a brand to customers and potential customers. Most multinational companies know this and have considerable budgets to spend on branded giveaways or promotional products for their customers and employees. Research has shown that customers are more likely to make a purchase after getting a promotional product (20.9%), then when advertising in printed press (13.4%), TV advertisement (7.1%), or online ads (4.6%). Furthermore, more than half of the people will take a favourable perception of a business that has given them a promotional product, which is a lot more that the perception that they will get from seeing a television advertisement (27.7%) or an advertisement on printed press (33.2%).
During the last 10 years the market has been heavily changed by the Internet. Mainly because corporate buyers for these kind of products, in the purchasing and marketing departments, are digital native and their primary source of information is the Internet. Therefore, instead of searching in printed company gifts catalogues that traditional distributors send, they prefer to look on the internet to find a bigger assortment of products and more transparency concerning the best offers and prices. They can also buy online which massively simplifies the process of ordering promotional gifts. This is the main reason why traditional promotional gifts distributors see their sales decreasing, while online distributors see a clear growth.
¿What are the plans for Gift Campaign for the coming years?
When we started Gift Campaign we defined a 3 years business plan in order to be the leading distributor for branded promotional and business gifts in South Europe. This business plan has been adapted based on the experience that we have been gaining throughout these years, but the spirit is still the same. So far, we are present in Spain and Italy and, in short, we will launch the online store in Portugal and France (one of the biggest markets in Europe) where we expect to have the same success as in Spain and Italy. After consolidating our leadership in South Europe, we will look at North Europe where there are many more online business gifts distributors and where the online competition is fiercer then in Southern Europe. However, we expect that based on our customer focus, good internal and external sales tools, our products assortment and pricing we can also be successful in more difficult markets.